Commentary

Rookie Rask will not be rattled

Updated: April 22, 2010, 7:58 AM ET
By Matt Kalman | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- What will it take to rattle Boston Bruins rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask?

Since he arrived in the NHL, we have yet to witness any hint of a meltdown. Despite sporadic play in the first half of his rookie season, he never wavered. The ups and downs of playing every night behind the league's worst offense in the second half of the season didn't knock him off stride.

The Stanley Cup playoffs can sometimes turn gods into mere mortals -- but not Rask. Not even playoff overtime, and then double overtime, could bring him off his perch as the new centerpiece of the Bruins' present and future.

Even after gutting out a 3-2 double-OT victory over the Buffalo Sabres in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, during which he turned away 35 of 37 shots, he turned away postgame questions with the same confident nonchalance that's made him a goaltending sensation.

[+] EnlargeTuukka Rask
AP Photo/Charles KrupaTuukka Rask, who made 35 saves Wednesday, had to deal with a pile-up that included Buffalo's Cody McCormick and teammate Marco Sturm.
"It could have been shorter," he calmly answered when asked about his first venture into NHL playoff overtime. "I don't know what to say. It was really exciting. I thought both teams had chances there, but by that point, it's anybody's game. Everybody's so tired that one little play makes a huge difference and today we got the break."

Rask's words could be read as false machismo if he didn't back them up on the ice. Two goals against over the first two periods put the Bruins in a hole. Rask could have felt as if he let his team down and took solace in the Bruins at least getting a split of the first four games. Instead, he responded by keeping the Sabres off the board until his teammates tied the game and ultimately won it on Miro Satan's goal.

"I thought I didn't have a chance on those goals," he said. "No matter if I did or not, you just keep focusing on the next shot and try not to give them that third one because that would have been deadly."

That life-or-death attitude was evident when Rask dove to his left to get his blocker on Mike Grier's would-be goal with almost nine minutes elapsed in the third period. While Rask's counterpart, Ryan Miller, made more highlight-reel saves over the course of 87:40 of hockey, Rask's proved to be the only one that saved the game because of the save Miller didn't make at 7:41 of the second overtime.

"I just threw everything I had to try and make that save," said Rask. "And you know, sometimes you make those desperation saves, and at least if you give an effort, sometimes you get rewarded."

The reward came not only with the winning goal, but also a friendly post on a Paul Gaustad tip in the first overtime, which rang off the right pipe.

"Sometimes the post hits outside, sometimes inside. This time, outside," Rask said as though he would have remained calm either way.

That type of calm has to rub off on his teammates and is probably why the Bruins haven't panicked after giving up the first goal in each of the first four games. Boston has overcome two two-goal deficits in the series.

"He's just a wonderful goalie. He's got great composure, he's got the right attitude and nothing really bothers him," said veteran Mark Recchi. "For a young goalie, that's a pretty darn good thing he has."

In his first full season, Rask has experienced numerous firsts, including his first extended stretch of starts, his first playoff start and his first playoff win. A first playoff-series victory is just one more win over Buffalo away.

"It's great," he said of the Game 4 win, "but the next game comes quick and we can't celebrate too long. The last one is always the toughest one and we've just got to be happy for a few hours here and get ready for the next game."

No doubt Rask will be ready … and relaxed.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.

Matt Kalman

Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. He has been on the Bruins beat since the lockout for numerous publications and has been covering the Boston sports scene for a decade.

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